Why Bruce Springsteen is The Boss

Bruce SpringsteenHello,

It’s all about The Boss today.

The legend that is Bruce Springsteen grew in Austin yesterday.  He made an impromptu look-in at Austin Music Awards, delivered his keynote at SXSW (well worth reading), and then did one of his marathon gigs at night.

What’s worth quoting here is that The Boss concluded his SXSW keynote by exhorting young musicians, “Bring the noise [and] treat it like it’s all we have. And then remember it’s only rock ‘n’ roll.”  But when it’s Springsteen who is the one playing it, it’s not ‘only’ rock ‘n’ roll.  Perhaps a few fans will agree.

I think music historians will count Bruce Springsteen as one of the most sincere and authentic rockers ever; he’s a throwback to a bygone age in terms of the way he makes his music, even in the way he sings, yet he’s so rooted in the present in terms of his message and his relevance.  He doesn’t need, doesn’t want, those image makers and PR people who package and script the artiste.

Springsteen has been a rocker with a social message, never more so than now.  Among the influences he has claimed are Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.  They are quite overt in “Wrecking Ball” which has got ‘Social Justice’ (besides fear, anger, hope, compassion) written all over it.  Not only that, the album is peppered with rhythms and sounds that are best described as ‘Folk Rock’.  You can play it while you and your buddies play cards and get a pizza, you can dance and groove to it with your girl, you can clap your hands to it, you can listen to it as a long lyric poem, you can drink Jack Daniels to it, and, if you’re into pot, I guess you can smoke pot to it.  (Remember to get or listen to the 13-track release; it closes with a delightful Irish jig about the melting pot that is the ‘American Land’.)

Though Springsteen’s The Boss, one must not forget to give his fantastic, all-pro sidemen their props.  I don’t know which edition of E Street this one is, but, boys and girls, “You’ve Got It” – it’s when we listen to you that we feel “We Are Alive.”

‘Wrecking Ball’s overall tone of social justice, the suggestion that the wealthy and the powerful use and then throw away their countrymen as if they’re disposable plastic razors, brings to mind the post-Great War song that had become so popular in the 1920s: ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime’.  Now, ‘Wrecking Ball’ is catching and reflecting the mood of a nation – perhaps many nations?  Let’s see, it’s early days yet.

Yahoo News subtitled their story on Springsteen’s masterclass at SXSW, “They call him The Boss for a reason.”  Yahoo got that hopelessly wrong.  Bruce Springsteen is not ‘The Boss’ for a reason.  He is ‘The Boss’ for a thousand reasons.

Shane

 

From the SXSW to DC; Lionel to Legend

Howdy Folks!

An apt way to greet y’all today ’cause we’re talkin’ Texas.  That’s because the SXSW (‘South by South-West’) music festival has kicked off in Austin, Texas.  A plethora of bands – up-and-comers to established acts – will ply their trade in Austin.  It’s musical mayhem down there with a band in every bar and a party on every patio.

Yesterday, a few bands opened at one of the upscale venues for the star of the show, Lionel Richie.  He wowed the audience, both fronting a band and comping himself on the piano (the true test for a singer).  Lionel Richie, a musician’s musician, doesn’t need to hide behind a mixer or a console, or rely on overproduced tracks – he’s the real thing.  That said, I think Richie forgot he was in Texas: he said (and sang) ‘Hello’.  Lionel, that should’ve been ‘Howdy’!

On the subject of ‘real things’, another one is Bruce Springsteen.  Springsteen is also at the SXSW and is slated to keynote.  Now whaddaya know— the veteran rocker also did in the U.S. what he did in the U.K.: he stormed onto the charts.  His ‘Wrecking Ball’ debuted at no. 1 on Billboard’s album charts, ‘wrecking’ any hopes Adele may have had for setting a new Billboard record.  ’21′ has finally been bumped off the top spot.

While some top names in music are in Austin, one was at (or, more correctly, just outside) the White House yesterday, mixing and mingling with the Obamas and the Camerons – that’s the Prime Minister of the U.K. and his old lady.  Barack Obama hosted a State Dinner for his counterpart from the U.K. at the White House Lawn.  Mumford & Sons, a little-known British band, was present to open for the headline act; apparently the Camerons’ taste runs to this band, which sounds more like a grain merchant in some village in Olde England.  The headliner was John Legend, who came with arm-candy Chrissy Teigen in tow.  It appears Legend was left alone to do his thing – unlike three weeks back, the President did not pick up the mic.  Perhaps he’s already got a record deal!

See ya,

Shane

The Boss and The Beib

Hello All,

Back in Old Blighty we sure love our ‘golden oldies’ – some days back I had written about old men Engelbert and Tom Jones making headlines once again.  Now witness Bruce Springsteen, who was ‘Bossing’ it in America back in the 80s, beating out all competition to rule the roost on the U.K. album charts!  Springsteen ‘Wrecking Ball’ album is no. 1 in U.K.  Not bad, Boss – and not bad, Britishers too!  You’ve got taste, for Springsteen is as genuine a rocker as they come.

But you can’t say the same about everyone.  Here in the States Billboard seems to be going ‘mad’ about Mad-onna’s ‘MDNA’ album.  (Why are you trying to hype and push it, Billboard?)  I sampled a few tracks and it’s just more of the same – overproduced, synthetic, generic dance-club tracks under the ‘Madonna’ brand-name, quasi-sung in that insubstantial, thin and reedy voice we all know and love so well.  Nothing new, nothing artistic here.  How this juggernaut keeps rolling on and on escapes me.  Credit the image-makers and PR people – they can sell anything!

Something far more engaging and authentic is Fun’s ‘We Are Young’ (which, in all honesty, is too dark to be mere ‘fun’).  Billboard reports that it is the first debut single by a rock band to ascend to no. 1 on the singles chart in a gazillion years.  Not by any stretch a ‘rocker’, this appealing song, driven by a heavy backbeat, sounds as if it’s influenced by 80s and 90s Euro-Pop.  It’s driving me batty because I can’t remember just who it reminds me of!  Perhaps someone will be able to make the connection and post a comment.

Looking two weeks ahead to the 26th, Justin Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend’ should land in the Top Ten – at least.  It’s the lead track from his upcoming album, ‘Believe’, which is said to be quite a departure from his earlier work, and so much so that the boy – er, man, now – himself thought it needed some justification: “You can’t really expect anything from my album. It’s really, really different. . . . I’m not trying to lose any of my young fans.”  No worries, Justin, you probably won’t – ‘Believe’ me!

Here’s an odd couple that I wouldn’t mind seeing (and hearing): Bruce and The Bieb!  How about Bruce Springstein and Justin Bieber duetting, backed by The Boss’s band?  Intriguing thought, eh?

In closing, it’s particularly apropos to refer to Britain as ‘Old Blighty’ in a music blog – ever heard ‘Take me Back to Dear Old Blighty’?

Blithely (and Blightily) Yours,

Shane